RJ Barrett was nearly perfect from downtown in San Antonio, as the Knicks regrouped and took care of business against the Spurs, starting their road trip with a win.
The New York Knicks (12-12) defeated the San Antonio Spurs (8-15) by a final score of 121-109 on the road. The Knicks played great team defense the entire night and were led by an outstanding shooting performance from slumping RJ Barrett as well as a dominant game by newly benched center Mitchell Robinson.
The biggest story for the evening for New York was head coach Tom Thibodeau’s second change to the starting lineup, as he shuffled Nerlens Noel into the fold over Robinson. Robinson spoke of his conditioning struggles coming into this season after missing a good portion of last season and his recent weight gain.
For the Spurs, they entered tonight as the 12th seed in the Western Conference. They also have a rising star in point guard Dejounte Murray, who leads San Antonio in points, steals, rebounds, and assists per game.
The first quarter began with signs of life from the struggling RJ Barrett. He was trying to do a bit of everything to help his team and looked more confident in both his jumper and his drives. Pacing overall for New York looked faster, as they tried to keep up with the young Spurs starters. Mitchell Robinson came off the bench with five minutes left in the quarter and immediately made an impact, grabbing two quick offensive rebounds. Overall, it was a very even-sided first quarter between the two teams, with neither unit making a huge splash to begin the contest, save for a last-second three from San Antonio’s Doug McDermott.
RJ with 19 IN THE HALF 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/L4nfScJh9H
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) December 8, 2021
To start the second, Thibodeau stuck with mostly bench players aside from Alec Burks. Mitchell Robinson continued to look great defensively and actively got into passing lanes to force turnovers from San Antonio. Immanuel Quickley and Derrick Rose were scoring early in the period and helped New York to perform at a quicker pace. Even as the starting unit trickled back into the game, New York stayed solid against the Spurs with sharp shooting from RJ Barrett and clean playing from Robinson. Barrett finished the half with an astounding 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting and a perfect 4-for-4 from beyond the arc. Robinson wrapped up the half with seven points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks in 11 minutes off the bench.
The second half started off with two quick threes from hot-handed Barrett and Burks to get the Knicks up by 10. Just as the Spurs started to gain some ground on the Knicks in the third, Julius Randle finally hit his first field goal of the game. It was a timely three-pointer that saw him find a rhythm as he hit two more from deep later in the period. Evan Fournier, who had a relatively quiet evening prior to the third, also started to find his stroke. He hit a three and a long two-pointer consecutively to extend the Knicks’ lead. It continued to be an even-keeled effort from New York on team defense as well as with a faster, more cohesive strategy on offense as the game entered the fourth quarter.
Errant passing and some timely shooting from Spurs point guard Derrick White got San Antonio within nine points of New York in the fourth. Immanuel Quickley, who was the main floor general in the quarter, hit a big three-pointer to extend the lead back to 12. Randle also continued his hot shooting and hit a handful of signature fadeaway jumpers to get the Knicks even more separation, and Barrett hit a career-high-tying sixth three-pointer late in the period to put on some finishing touches. Barrett proceeded to hit a career-best seventh triple in the game and finished off the victory with 32 points on 7-of-8 shooting from deep.
Randle got cooking late and ended the game with 15 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds. Burks was impressive tonight as well, scoring 18 points and dishing out five assists with some big shots throughout the game. Nerlens Noel, who started in place of Robinson at center, was so-so to start the game but became more of a paint presence in the second half. He finished with eight rebounds and a block, but only scored two points in 25 minutes on the floor. Fournier hit several big shots in the second half but had an otherwise quiet evening. He had seven points and three rebounds but went 1-for-6 from three-point range.
KEEP EATING JULIUS pic.twitter.com/7INZvPf5Ww
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) December 8, 2021
The Knicks’ bench was impressive as usual. Quickley had a great evening and tied Robinson for a team-high +13 rating in the game. He had 16 points and six rebounds with two assists. Speaking of Mitchell Robinson, he was stellar off the bench and grabbed 14 rebounds in 22 minutes. He also scored 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting, with two steals and three blocks. Derrick Rose was perfect on his only two long ball attempts and had 12 points on the night overall. In 13 minutes of play, Obi Toppin had eight points, grabbed three rebounds, and shot 4-for-6 from the field. Quentin Grimes played for a few seconds to end the first quarter but was pulled immediately, and scored no points for the Knicks.
New York’s next challenge will be against the Indiana Pacers tomorrow night. Indiana is currently 13th in the Eastern Conference but will be looking to also correct their season against the Knicks, who are fairly even with them in the standings.